CFL's U.S. TV picture may be getting brighter


September 18, 1994|By KEN MURRAY

For all the fiscal debris littering the Canadian Football League landscape from impoverished franchises this season, there was

the glint of future green last week.

There may be a U.S. television contract after all.

In two-day league meetings in Toronto, commissioner Larry Smith told owners he had solicited TV contract offers from two U.S. carriers.

Baltimore CFLs owner Jim Speros, a member of the TV and expansion committees, declined to identify the two carriers but confirmed that neither was CBS. He said they were significant options that would "bring tremendous dollars."

If true, what that means is new life for U.S. expansion. An American TV contract goes hand-in-hand with expansion -- you can't have one without the other. Any TV deal presumably is contingent on adding four more American teams.

Among the cities discussed were Memphis, Tenn., St. Louis, Oakland, Calif., Orlando, Fla., San Antonio and, believe it or not, New York and Los Angeles. The latter two markets are where you get the attention of the TV folks -- along with the migraine headache of competing against the NFL. As usual, the CFL owners will worry about details later.

Combined with a $6 million expansion fee, the TV contract would guarantee each team $1.4 million, Speros said.

It also would mean there will be eight Canadian and eight American teams, creating two natural divisions whose champions would meet in the Grey Cup.

"Plus we'd get all the games televised," Speros said. "There'd be 16 teams and eight games each week. There'd be two nationally televised games and six regional games."

A cure-all, it isn't. But a U.S. TV contract and some legitimate U.S. teams would be a coup.

The critical list

A TV contract doesn't sweep away all the league's problems, though. Midyear projections show that four teams -- the CFLs, Saskatchewan Roughriders, Edmonton Eskimos and Winnipeg Blue Bombers -- will make money this year. The other eight will lose in varying degrees.

The three most critical franchises are the Las Vegas Posse, Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Ottawa Rough Riders. The Posse almost certainly will be moved -- perhaps to Birmingham, Ala.

There's a good chance that either the Tiger-Cats or Rough Riders will relocate in Montreal, which has a local group of investors interested in bringing back the CFL. The Alouettes folded in 1987.

Hamilton president John Michaluk was ousted in a power play last week, ostensibly because he didn't generate enough corporate support. The Tiger-Cats already fired a coach and changed quarterbacks twice, so now they're going up the ladder to solve the fan problem.

In Ottawa, would-be minority partner Larry O'Brien, a local businessman, backed away from his $300,000 commitment to the team in a dispute over his role. Majority owner Bruce Firestone told the owners he would pump in more of his own money this season, projecting a loss of less than $1 million.

The league's big moneymaker appears to be the Roughriders, who expect to make a $1 million profit. Speros said his figures show he will be in the black by less than $200,000. With each home playoff game, that would rise by $300,000, he said.

Think pink

The Calgary Stampeders wore pink jerseys in a 38-12 loss at Edmonton on Sept. 9. That's because the red piping in their white road jerseys ran in the wash and created a pinkish tint. Calgary asked to wear its home red, but Edmonton refused to switch.

Nobody attributed the loss to the jerseys, but there was some discussion about the heavy rain.

"If weather beat them," said Eskimos defensive back Robert Holland, "they were wearing the right-colored uniforms. Pink with pink panties."

Are they gone yet?

More than one eyebrow was arched when Las Vegas went for a two-point conversion with 16 seconds left in a 34-21 victory over the Shreveport Pirates.

The betting line in the game was 14 points, and a successful two-pointer would have beaten the spread. Vegas failed on the try, then took the heat.

Coach Ron Meyer said assistant Jeff Reinebold called the play.

"I almost fired him over the play," Meyer said. "It casts such a . . . shadow of doubt on the game. . . . I can tell you that will never happen again as long as I'm head coach."


Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.